You are one of dozens of people your contacts meet each week, and they only have the capacity to remember a few people. Don’t be surprised if your business card is thrown away or—and this is almost as bad—stuffed in a desk drawer with hundreds of others.
That means you need to remind your network that you’re around and available. If you’re on the minds of the people in your network, they’ll think of you when opportunities arise. They’ll turn to you when they hear of a job opening that suits you, a consulting gig that fits your skills, and other open doors that could help advance your career.
So how do you keep your network engaged and interested in you? Here are eight smart ways to remind your contacts that you’re a great resource:
1. Actively participate in LinkedIn groups. Joining LinkedIn networking groups offers great value, but most of that value comes from participating. Ask questions, share content, and offer to help others. Establish new relationships first, then be sure to maintain them through weekly involvement.
2. Write status updates. Update your status on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, if you’re active on those networks. Don’t write: “Still need a job” or “Please hire me.” Instead, tell us what’s happening. Sound proactive and confident. Try: “Great meeting today with XXX” or “Added YYY to my target company list“ today.”
3. Get out of the house. While there’s great value online, the best networking is still in person. You build social credibility when you get out of the house and meet new people. And you keep relationships when you are able to remind them of your objectives with a smile and a handshake.
4. Send regular email updates. Probably the biggest networking mistake is to meet new people, impress them initially and then completely ignore them. If you don’t bump into people every week, how do you keep in touch? You can send regular e-mail updates to reinforce your job-search objectives and keep people tuned into how they can help you.
5. Share the ideas or objectives of others. On social networks and even when networking in your local community, you can always find an opportunity to help someone else. Try re-tweeting on Twitter, adding a “like” on Facebook, or commenting on a LinkedIn update. This builds your network through good feelings. People see you’re willing to help them and you have the network to do it, which makes them more eager to help you in the future.
6. Look for opportunities to meet in smaller groups. In addition to a broader networking effort, you’ll also want to maintain tighter relationships with a smaller group. This can be a ten-person accountability group meeting weekly or a series of one-on-one meetings you set up regularly during your job search. This way you have a few people who really know you and your objectives.
7. Stay top of mind. How else do you stay in the thoughts of your network? Try some other social-networking tools. Use Foursquare to check-in and let your network know where you are. Try a social-bookmarking site like Digg or StumbleUpon to let them know what you’re reading, or YouTube to let them know what you’re watching. When they see your name, they’ll wonder: “I wonder if Mike found a job yet?”
8. Keep recruiters warm. While you don’t want to over-burden recruiters with phone calls and a barrage of other communications, there’s nothing wrong with a quick monthly e-mail update, a reminder of your key skills, industry fit, and target position. A tip: At the end of your email, write, ”No reply necessary.” It takes the burden off the recruiter by overtly respecting their time, and in the end, they’ll likely only get back to you if they have a match anyway.
How do you keep your network in the loop?
Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and learn about his two popular job-search books.